While your cover letter won't help in the initial selection process, it can distinguish you from the competition in the final rounds. If you're responding to a classified ad, try to use some of the keywords the ad mentions.
Taking the time to put together a letter targeted to the position offered shows the employer that you are interested in this position, and not just any position that will bring home a paycheck. Remember, if you're sending your resume to a new networking contact, be sure to mention who referred you.
What Goes into an Effective Cover Letter?
In the job search, many people tend to shrug off the idea of a cover letter as a mere nuisance. They're wrong! Ask any recruiter or hiring manager, and they're likely to tell you, “No cover letter, no interview.” Even if you are sending your resume via e-mail, take the time to compose a compelling cover letter that sells your skills.
The cover letter also offers you the chance to fill in any holes in your resume. For example, if you've been out of the work force for several years, a cover letter offers you the opportunity to explain why: “Having spent the past six years on the ‘parent track,’ I am now able to make the commitment to re-enter the work force and re-engage myself in corporate challenges. I look forward to doing so with much enthusiasm.” Another advantage to a cover letter is that it lets you offer up a bit of your personality.
An effective cover letter should include the following five points:
Target the letter to the specific job you are applying for. If there is no specific job, then ask about employment possibilities.
Target the letter to the specific employer. Here's where your research will come in handy. Let the employer know that you know something about the company and/or its competitors.
Talk about a specific class or experience you've had that may be especially helpful in the proposed job.
Use names. If someone from the company recommended you, say so. If you've read about someone in the company, mention that this person is someone you admire and see as a role model.
Be enthusiastic. If you really want the job, it will be communicated to the reader and will enhance your chances of gaining an interview.
If you've taken the time to craft a letter that summarizes your strongest qualifications, you'll have the edge over other contenders who skip this important step.
Sample Scannable and Web Resume Format
150 West Allen Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Accounting manager with eight years’ experience in general ledger, accounts payable, and financial reporting. MBA in Management. Proficient in Windows and Microsoft Office.
MALCOLM Corporation, Newton, MA
Accounting Manager, 2007–present
Manage a staff of six in general ledger and accounts payable.
Established guidelines for month-end closing procedures, speeding up closing by five business days.
Implemented team-oriented cross-training program within accounting group, increasing productivity of key accounting staff.
DAKOTA & SOPHIA COMPANY, Wellesley, MA
Senior Accountant, 2004–2007
Managed accounts payable, general ledger, transaction processing, and financial reporting.
Developed management reporting package, including variance reports and cash flow reporting.
Staff Accountant, 2002–2007
Managed accounts payable including vouchering, cash disbursements, and bank reconciliation.
Wrote and issued policies.
Maintained supporting schedules used during year-end audits.
Trained new employees.
MBA in Management, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 2003
BS in Accounting, Boston College, Boston, MA, 2001
National Association of Accountants
Sample Cover Letter
178 Green Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
May 18, 2011
1140 Main Street
Boston, MA 02118
Dear Ms. Cummings:
I read about your agency in the May edition of Save Our Earth and was impressed by your Stop and Think! campaign to educate Boston in choosing environmentally safe alternatives for everyday living. I wonder if you might have an opening for an environmental advocate.
I have both a passion for environmental concerns and practical experience. For the past four years, I have been operating my own business, Recycling Renegades, in Cambridge. I successfully acquired the first recycling permit in Cambridge for ferrous and nonferrous metal, aluminum, high-grade paper, and plastic. As owner and manager, I conduct research, process materials, and distribute proceeds to community associations.
I now feel it is time to shift to a wider focus. I would like to apply my skills to developing innovative programs to promote all environmental concerns. Would it be possible to meet for an interview? I have several ideas I'd like to share with you.